THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. BY REV. RICHARD WI TER HAMILTO .

Ephesians iii. 19 And to know thb love of Christ, which passbth knowledge. There is a species of rhetorical exaggeration, a kind of hyperbole, which does not mislead. It being most obviously, if not professedly, an overstatement, we are fully on our guard: the glare of its high and undue colouring precludes all fear and hazard of deception. Like irony, it limits and corrects itself. The Scripture does not disdain the use of this figure. " The Lord answered Job and said. Behold now behemoth, he drinketh up a river and hasteth not; he trusteth that he can draw up Jordan into his mouth.'* ** And there are also," declares the Evangelist John, ** many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.'* In all such cases, though the truth is not literally observed, it is virtually maintained ; and the excess of language, which cannot be strictly and formally justified, yields that strength of meaning, and impresses that force of feeling, which it was the original purpose to convey at once with the greatest emphasis and sincerity.

THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. l65 Poetry owes to this privilege its deepest charm and most costly embellishment. But this J in some instances, is an inconvenient and

unsuitable style. It should not at any time be em-p ployed, but with the caution of a sound judgment and delicate taste ; while it ought to be restricted to occasions, and expended upon themes, which by their sublimity, demand the exercise of imagination, and, by their peculiarity, destroy the pretext of mistake. Definition requires to be clothed in the most sober language. Its parts must be well weighed, and its expressions be sedate and subdued. Here is iio room for flights of fancy and speculations of opinion $ all should be guarded and measured; the thought explicit, the phrase distinct. The precision cannot be too strict, — the forbearance, from all verbal display and mastery, too rigid. It may be that circumstances exist which would render this a dangerous property and turn of speech. When the feeling is already high, and the tempera^ ment impassioned, loose and incautious epithets may kindle a destructive flame. A sufficient capability of excitement, and quickness of feeling, may now be discovered; it rather needs restraint than stimulus, corrective than incentive. Temperance of statement and argumentation is demanded by the severe fidelity of truth, and by the just interest of those whom it addresses. Let the manner be less plain and perspicuous, and both will be compromised. And this elevated and ambitious diction may, in

166 THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. tertain connections, border upon profanity. Its indulgence is intolerable in the exercises of devotion. When we " worship and fall down, and kneel before the Lord our Maker,*' our language should be dis-

tinguished by a modest reserve and a chastened awe ; our spirit should be disciplined into a settled eamestn^s, and a child-like simplicity. The " words should be few and well-chosen." But our text is, to every intent, a definition^ and one of the most exact. The writer having asserted what might be misunderstood, subjoins an explanatory member to the sentence. As if there had been in that sentence something unfixed and ambiguous, he recalls it, that he may give it more clearness and decision. That which passes in his mind is easily elicited : the very association of ideas is immediately traced. To know the love of Christ 1 Know the love of Christ? It passeth knowledge! or is it unimportant to examine the nature of this sudden check. It is generally more proper to abate, than strengthen, otir descriptions. Reflection brings with it a qualifying power. What we have spoken in haste and in the transport of feeling, we must often lower and allay. It is rare that we deem it necessary to throw into it more feeling. But this inspired author, instead of attempering his representation, proceeds in the opposite course. ay, even in his anxiety to aggrandize the love of Jesus Christ, he submits to the charge of a retraction, and the semblance of a paradox. And it was directed to those who felt themselves laid imder immense obligations to the Saviour of

TH£ TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. l&J mankind. It is noted by the sacred historian^ that among them ^Hhe name of the Lord Jesus was nuigv nified/'* There was, consequently^ no occasion to vanquish debasing views of his character and workf by vivid, energetic composition. There waa no hesitating confidence to reinforce, no *^ smoking flax'' to

revive and fan. There was ardour, even to intensit^i of emotion. If it was possible for them to go too far, if there was any danger of extravagance in the feeling and utterance of their gratitude, if there was the faintest risk of. this gratitude interfering with the first of all claims, the highest of all duties, long since should a precaution have been suggested, and an alterative been applied I A determinate, and not aQ inflated, language was imperatively needed. Such hearts were too susceptible to sit in judgment on the accuracy of terms, or to calm down the tone and throbbing of the passions. And this was the prayer of the Apostle's heart. He bowed the knee. There was agreement between his desire and his gesture; and nothing can be more indicative of declared devotion. All but truth and sincerity fled from his recollections. He gave no flattering title : he entertained no double sense. That was not an exercise, that was not an attitude, in which to dissemble — to array any subject with a false importance, to invest any being with an unmerited claim. Yet Paul, whose words are always the " words of truth and soberness'* — who had received the Gospel * Acta; ziz. 17*

168 THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. by revelation, who had been caught up into the third heaven, to whom to " live was Christ,'* who did but ** one thing to apprehend that for which he was apprehended of Christ Jesus,** — this chief of the Apostles — ^when staidly adjudging, and scrupulously defining, the nature and extent of the Redeemer's mercy toward us ; when summoning hearts, the most

susceptible and enflamed, to contemplate it ; when pouring forth his supplication to Him who " desire th truth in the inward parts j" deliberately and solemnly 1— ^ot in the collision of a debate, but in the weighed matter of a composition, and in the frank confidence of an epistle — ^pronounces it a " love which passeth knowledge.'' But can any thing be more rash and unfitting than such an encomium, if Jesus of azareth be the naturally human being, born of ordinary parentage, found in common descent, the son of Joseph and Maiy, capable of misapplying Scripture, perhaps not faultless in the haunts of private life, addicted to assert opinions which he had not maturely considered, fallible, peccable, ignorant, and weak? According to what fair, just, authorized acceptation, can His love be thus transcendent ; or how can it deserve to be celebrated in this lofty style ? I. This representation must be confirmed. We do not regard it as a unwary description, a hapless slip, not supposing that these are to be found in a volume "profitable for doctrine'* and "written for our learning/' We have devised no method, we have acquired no art, of appeal from " the words of the Holy Ghost."

THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. 169 One thing is plain: that the love cannot '^pass knowledge,'* the motive of which may be conceived. If we can enter into the motive, all its best and largest consequences may be understood. The pa* triot, the philanthropist, the martyr — however bright their fame and great their deeds — in the main outlines of their character, and chief springs of their

conduct, may be readily appreciated. If we have ever loved our country, our kind, our faith — if we can realize these exercises of love — ^we have clews to their most renowned virtue, and keys to their most cherished sensibility. The recess of the mind, the working of the heart, is laid open. The incomprehensible degree of this love to men^ must be in its infinite motive I or can we abate our belief, nor recant our profession, of mysteries^ which, by drawing it from the very bosom of Deity, give us a place among its awful affections. 1. This love is most strictly Divine. The benevolence of a creature to his fellow must hQ finite; must be regulated by the standard o£ selflove; can have nothing in it independent or selfcontrolled. The passions of any being must be limited by his nature — and the heart is only capable of a particular excitement. Human capacity cannot be infused with divine emotion. or is it possible for any being to love another better than himself; for created nature has no higher guide and model than the law of self-love impressed upon it. Thus our constitution as creatures, and the governing principle of all our social feelings, restrict our warm-

170 THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST* est good-will to a narrow compass. That which is ^nite must be dependant — ^if matter, physically — accountably, if mind. And, therefore, our love is the subject of duty. But, if it be the subject of duty, it can have no gratuitous character ; and, if no gratuitous character, it can obtain for itself no praise for its inconceivable energy. Properly speaking, there can not be disinterested love between man and man.

Obligation destroys not iliejreeclom of the act, but it does the imaginary license to perform, or not perform, it* SympcUhy brings with it a pleasure which secures leeward. Our ultimate salvation demands this precise evidence of believing principle. ever could such benevolence be exercised without a reference to our own personal relation, and never ought. And there was one who, after the most lavish sacrifices, and exhausting labours, said, ** I am a debtor." And we must all remember that we "owe to love one another." To flatter, consequently, these necessarily circumscribed sentiments and acts as "passing knowledge," is egregious trifling, and hollow bombast. o conceit could be too fanciful, no verbiage too turgid, if this description be employed to predicate the compassion of any creature, be he angel or man» The fathomless streamlet I The overpowering splendour of the glow-worm I The cloud-capt elevation of the mole-hill I We " call Jesus, Lord." Here we know neither sense of shame nor shadow of doubt. If we are sometimes constrained to treat it as a question, and to debate it as a controversy, it is not from a mo-

THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. I7I mentary suspicion, a glancing demur. By deep in> quiry, somewhat proportioned to this great argu*ment, we have wrought out an imtrembling convici' tion. It is assured as a geometric demonstraticHit and constant as an intuitive law. We grieve, we blush, to admit any necessity of proving it anew^ " My Lord I and my God !'* I ask not so much thy favour towards thy creature that he dares to confess Thee before men — he is but thus strong and resolved in Thee I — rather I implore thy pardon for his attempt, which only motive can redeem from the

guilt of presumption, to prove that Thou art " God blessed for ever 1" It is surely only a less daring attitude for the man who is " but of yesterday, and knows nothing," to vindicate, than to deny, Theel Bear with him who, in his weakness but his sincerity too, would persuade all his fellow-beings to love and to adore Theel Remember that in Thy world — and Thou didst long since " come unto it, and, though made by Thee, it received Thee not*' — ^there are " imaginations to cast down," there are " oppositions of science, falsely so called," to be rebuked, there are those " of the contrary part" to be made " ashamed 1" He covets this distinction, this success, more than any crown which even Thou couldst give but that of life, more than any palm which Thou couldst en wreathe, but that of heaven I Is creation a divine claim? " Without him was not any thing made that was made." Is sustentation a divine act? " By him all things consist." Is universal possession a divine prerogative? " He is Lord

172 THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. of all." Is Scripture-inspiration a divine proceedure ? "The prophets searched what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory which should follow." Is the pardon of sin a divine inalienation ? " The Son of Man hath power to forgive sins.*' Is God omniscient ? " All the churches shall know that I am He which searcheth the reins and hearts." Is God omnipresent? " Where two or three are met together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Is God omnipotent ? "I am Alpha and Omega, the Almighty.'* Is God self-existent? "Thou art the same, and thy years shall not faili*' Is God eternal ?

" His goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.*' Is God to be beloved? " If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha." To be obeyed? " Ye serve the Lord Christ." To be trusted? " Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." To be adored? " Let all the angels of God worship him." o discrimination is applied, no reserve is intimated ; the properly and rightfully Divine is attributed to Him in the most unqualified manner, and the most substantial degree. Well may we take His high praises into our mouth, well may we extol and ascribe greatness to Him, well may we give unto Him the glory due unto his name I ow the inquiry arises, whether the sacred writings, which are so definitive upon the fact of his Deity, ever connect that Deity with the displays of

THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. 173 his love? " And his name shall be called Wonderful, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.*^ "Immanuel, Ood with u^/* "Jehovah our righteousness.^' "Look unto me, and be ye saved^ all ye ends of the earth, for / am Godf and there is none else/' " Awake, O sword, against my shepherd^ and against the man that is my fellow J saith the Lord of hosts/* ^^ Christ the wisdom of God and the power of God.*' " The Great God, even our Saviour.*' ^^ Jesus Christy the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.*' " This is the True God and eternal life'' — And we have plain testimony that his love is divine. " As the Father hath loved me, so iiave I loved you." " That the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them." " Feed the church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood." " Hereby

perceive we the love, because He" — that is the Eternal Life — " laid down his life for us."* It follows that all the Divine Perfections must direct and enforce this love. It was, therefore. Absolute. — The highest angel, the most glowing seraph, has no property in himself. He is made for a peculiar sphere, he is amenable to a peculiar law, he is dependant on a peculiar arrangement of things. He can do nothing that is peremptory and self-devoting : he cannot, at pleasure, select his own station, and assign his own province. However exalted, he leans but the more on infinite power, and is bound but the more to infinite authority. According to • I. John, UL 16.

174 THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. his elevation in the scale, his reliance is full, and his obedience sensitive. But ** the love of Christ'* soars above these conditions. Sometimes, it is true, He is called the gift of God, even the Father, " God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.'* But where is the emphasis of the contrast, where is the munificence of the boon, if that Son was a created being ? The Divine Will could have peopled worlds with beings as fair, as pure, as benevolent. A moment, a mandate, would have sufficed ; and the counterpart to the most preeminent creature might have stood up in the beauty and splendour of his existence. How is that gift so vast which bestows nothing but what the Supreme Volition, at every moment, might have matched and exceeded ? But the economy of redemption, with the respective offices borne in it by the persons of the Godhead, may satisfy us of the true solution. In one sense,

He was the gift of God by voluntary condescension and official subordination. But was He not his own? Of irresponsible authority ? Of self-determining action? othing is more frequently and distinctly indicated: — "Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world/* "Christ also hath loved us, and given himself for us an offering and sacrifice to God/' "Christ loved the church and gave himself for it." " Who gave himself a ransom for all." " Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity." " Once in the end of the world hath he put away sin by the sacrifice of him^elf!^ " This he did once

THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. 175 when he offered up himself*^ It was in this tone of sovereignty He said, ** Lo I come/* It was in pursuance of this self-dedication that He was seen amidilt the bowers of Eden, the oaks of Mamre, the pastures of Midian, the clouds of Sinai. Having descended on our earth in our nature, He asserts the samQ title : " o one taketh it from me, but I lay my life down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." He invariably as* signs the same motive : " For this cause came I unto this hour." Without his most unbiassed consent^ his most absolute independence, the earthly gov«r» nor " could have no power,** nor was there a liability or obligation to suffering and death by which He could have been constrained. At pleasure He could pass through the infuriate rabble, at pleasure He could make the band, which came to seize him, recoil. He adjusted the scene which he was to fill, and laid the pUe on which he was to be offered. All proved a self-disposing power. The fire fell not kindling upon his heart, it was native to it, and, like that beheld by the prophet, ** infolding itself.*'

That which is independent must be underivedf but what is underived must have always existed : we therefore, regard this love as Eternal. — We know no antecedent moment, no previous event, to it. There was never moment nor event which it did not anticipate. " In the beginning was the Word." Of a never beginning succession we can have no idea : but it suffices us to say, that whatever the dread property can include, it de-

176 THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. notes, in its reference, to the love of Christ. We infer the eternity of His love to us, as we do that of the Father to him: "Thou lovedst me before the foundations of the world.'^ "Grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.*' These are the common expressions for an eternal date: but those more decisive are not withheld. "The eternal purpose was purposed in Christ." Do you know what is this everlasting love? Can you transport yourselves to "the years of the right hand of the Most High ?** Can you ascertain a past equal to a future, the two oceans of eternity, joined together by the narrow strait of time, alike broad and deep ? From that Ever, what deduction can arithmetic separate, can imagination suppose? "We know not the numbers thereof." Infinite intelligencej as necessary to unoriginated, eternal nature — ^which can be the only source of all reflected knowledge — must have regulated this love. If the plainest methods and implements of husbandry are stated in Scripture to "proceed from the Lord of hosts,"* because all means of human welfare Are suggested by the united operations of divine

skill and benignity — ^we may reasonably conclude that our salvation will be conspicuous for its features of glorious contrivance. And it is declared, that •* God hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence." He, whose "love passeth knowledge," is therefore described as exercising a perfect insight into our nature, and comprehension of our case. * Isaiah, xxviii. 39.

THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. 177 "He is the only Wise God, our Saviour.*' The Spirit is upon him, "the Spirit of counsel and of quick understanding." He is the " Counsellor.'* He is the "light of the world," and the "life is the light of men." "In him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." These opened to his view, every sin of man ; that view pierced to all the enormity and aggravation of oiu* rebellion; it grasped each difficulty presented by a holy and immutable law, as well as that which arose from the untowardness and enmity of the human heart; it searched the magazine of wrath that must be encountered by him whose arm should bring salvation ; it understood the sum of evil to be expiated, and the stress of punishment to be endured. He saw. He hailed, it all. The infinite prospect of his mind gave perfection to all the plans of his love, and ensured the instruments for their accomplishment. And does it not enhance our conceptions of this love, that it explored the way which it traversed ; that it estimated the sacrifice which it sustained; and that it beamed forth from "the eyes of the Lord," which are ever vigilant and all-penetrating, "running to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong on our behalf?"

This love is as necessarily efficient. "Our Redeemer is mighty." " He has travelled in the greatness of his strength." " He is a horn of salvation/' But this power must not be confined to the simple idea of strength : it is moral right. " He hath power to forgive sins." " He is able to save to the utter-

178 THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. most." And we may conceive of omnipotence and infinite authority strengthening the essence, and warranting the exercise, of such compassion. It is "stronger than death." And it is this impression of natural and ofiicial qualification in Jesus Christ, which alone can soothe the mind in its remorse of guilt, and dread of punishment. There wants a power of healing, present and direct. That power must be embodied, with a majesty to raise our admiration, and with a tenderness to .relieve our fear. When conscience strikes its scorpion-sting into my breast, when my "heart meditates terror,'* when judgment glares down upon my head, when hell flames up at my feet, — I look around and wistfully seek pity and deliverance. Whither can I fly? Who will plead my cause? To which "of the saints can I turn?** What mortal hand can rescue me? "O wretched man that I am 1 who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Mock not the agony which you cannot abate I Propose not the measures of a gratuitous irritation 1 Turn not my distraction into scorn 1 Is that the time to select, for telling me of a fellow-creature, whose instruction and example are to form my only grounds of hope? Will that disenchant the * * evil sound" which is in mine ear ? Will that extract the arrow which rankles barb-deep in my heart? Am I told of some super-human angelic

being, who shall undertake for me? Creature, he must be, and therefore cannot be my Saviour. o, ye celestial ministers, there is not one of all your shining ranks to whom I would entrust mine im-

THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OP CHRIST. 179 mortal soul t ot all your outstretched hands could support its pressure I ot all your expanded wings could waft it to the skies I one of your host durst take the mystic scroll of redemption, nor even "lo<A thereon!" — Lamb of God! — Thou with the sevenfold vision, and the seven-fold strength 1 — Thou allperfect, in the midst of the throne, claimant of its glories, and object of its ascriptions! — To Thee I commend my spirit! — Thou only art able to "keep that which I have committed unto Thee against that day!" — The tribute will be just, as the shout will be loud, which shall proclaim over the salvation of the church, the energy of the love which has redeemed it, " ow is come the power of Christ!" This love must be consistent with immaculate purity. "Jesus Christ is the righteous." "He is the Holy and the Just One." " He loveth righteousness, and hateth wickedness." Him, the seraphim with the six wings, of old adored as the "thrice holy Jehovah," in "their trinal triplicities on high."* ot one yearning of his pity impaired his complacency in infinite excellence, or his detestation of whatever opposed it. When his commiseration was most exquisite, finding its relief in sighs and tears, it was chastened with all the sentiments and emotions which fill angels with awe, and fiends with despair. The law was within his heart at the moment of its most melting kindness, expanded to its enlargement, and warmed with its glow. Rectitude and justice there dwelt in the embrace of love and

• Spenser. 2

180 THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. mercy. Holiness was the standard of his grace — grace was the expression of his holiness. He hated not sin the less when He wept over Jerusalem, than when He sent forth his armies to destroy it : He did not compassionate sinners more at the Crucifixion than He will at the Judgment. And, therefore, is a character of reverence to be remarked in all the displays of his love. He is "separate from sinners." His ineffable purity is cherished with the infinite endearment He knew when in the bosom of the Father : it enshrines his incarnate person: and all his benevolence smiles through its features, speaks with its lips, and distributes by its hands 1 o "variableness is with God, neither shadow of turning:" the love which is divine must be immuta" hie. A "mother may forget, yet will He not forget." ** A brother offended, is harder to be won than a strong city •/* but He " sticketh closer than a brother." The Saviour felt no sudden burst of sympathy, and exercises no fickle mercy. "Whom He loves as his own, He loves unto the end." Affliction, falling on our frail bodies and regarded by our unbelieving hearts, may often raise the doubt ; but He answers, " As many as I love I rebuke and chasten." Persecution, as it tears the living fibre of our bosom, may seem to justify the fear ; but it was beneath these poignant and accumulated tortures that Christian martyrs have always exclaimed, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ ?*'

And there is in the love of Christ not only a divine greatness but a divine dispensation. It is that

THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. 181 which administers and applies. He has mercy; and the phrase conveys the thought of exercise as well as possession. We may conceive of pity in a person who has no power and authority to evince it. But the " Saviour of the body, the church," is the " Head of all principality and power." We, therefore, read of His prerogative in its due course of operation. "And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant.** " We believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they." " Looking for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.'* This is the exclusive province of the Deity : but how can he, who deems this Saviour a mere man, shape his thoughts and feelings in conformity with such language ? Christianity, if it could be so interpreted, must lead us into a thousand snares of impiety and idolatry : commanding us to trust in man, at the moment it assures us that cursed is he who maketh flesh his arm j attracting our love, in a religious sense, to a creature, while it enjoined us to love the Lord our God with aU our heart and soul ; exciting sentiments of gratitude and devotion to another, though it informs us that God will not give his glory to him ; bidding us pray to him, with the assurance that the Father only heareth prayer ; summoning " all men to honour the Son even as they honour the Father," and protesting to each against it—" See thou do it not!'* It is only as this is the love of Deity, that it " passeth knowledge :" and is it not dread and kind as that ? Is it not worthy of One " whose righte-

182 THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. ousness is like the great mountains, whose judgments are a great deep, whose mercy is great above the heavens, whose truth reacheth unto the clouds?" whose "ways are higher than our ways, whose thoughts than our thoughts, as the heavens are higher than the earth?" Should it be alleged that the mercy of the Saviour is of a more softened manner, a more human expression, than that which is ascribed to the Jehovah of Israel, we are prepared to expect it. He was " touched with the feeling of our infirmities,** by his participation of our nature. But it would be easy to select from the descriptions of that love, which none dispute to be properly divine, instances of apparent relenting, tremulousness, indecision, and regret, quite equal to any such appearances in the " Man of sorrows," " the Son of Man who came to seek and to save that which was lost." Where the Supreme is unquestionably the speaker, a tone is often heard of anguish and disappointment — a reference is made to animal organs and human sympathies. These are accommodations to oiu- faculties; and it is a false criticism which supposes that they can detract from the grandeur of the theme itself. And now that Christ the Lord hath taken on him flesh and blood, let us welcome the new and the fitting portraiture and channel of the love which is invariable and infinite, whatever scope it may adopt. But ah I when we would scan it, do we not " exercise oiu^elves in matters too high for us?*' When angels "desire to look into these things,*' may they not be "charged with folly?"

THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. 188

How overwhelming is the reflection! The love which was concentrated in Jesus, which spake through human tongue, which beamed from human eye, was the same with that whose tender mercies are universally, and unweariedly, diflused — causing the sun to arise and the rain to descend — ^filling this still beautiful world with sweetness and harmony. It, though here it might seem to command so recent a date and so narrow a sphere, was revolved in "the understanding which is infinite," and in the " thoughts which are very deep;" was laid up in "the counsel which shall stand," and among " the tender mercies and loving-kindnesses which have been ever of old ;" was indulged in the heart which " delighteth in mercy." " We beheld His glory : the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, fiill of grace and truth." It rests, then, in the infinite. o contemplation brings us so near to Him who is invisible. " Such knowledge is too wonderful for us." " The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea." Let our capacities incessantly widen, still it cannot, in their most inconceivable sublimity, be contained by them, — unless the smaller circle can receive the larger, or the creatiu'e "find out the Almighty to perfection." Pursue it, it still recedes : approach it, it still grows: calculate it, and it amasses, and swells, its divine riches and supernal glories, still. Like the waters of the prophetic sanctuary it ever deepens, — ^like the sphere of the material firmament it ever spreads, — like the precious

184 THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. things of the everlasting hills, it is exhaustless in its source, and undecaying in its stability.

Though the transcendence of this love required to be placed on the fact of the Saviour's unequivocal divinity, other views assist us in justifying the representation made of it in the text. 2. Let us consider the objects which it embraced. Life has sometimes been sacrificed by man for man. atural affection has prompted it ; and we wonder not when David cries out over his child, " Would God I had died for thee." Moral esteem has, perhaps, been the inducement ; and, for "a good man, some might even dare to die." Religious charity could dictate it; and "we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." What was the world He visited? What were the creatures for whom He interposed ? A theatre of rebellion : a seed of evil doers. So strong was the abhorrence our guilt aroused, that not only the armies of heaven were embattled against us, that not only the whole creation groaned beneath the incumbrance and sacrilege of our crimes, but " it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart 1" There is a repellent quality in sin. "It is the abominable thing which God hates." " He is not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness ; neither shall evil dwell with him." It closes heaven against us. It alienates from us all natures fair and good. It exiles us from each holy sympathy of the universe. It converts every glance of compassion into a trea-

THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. 185 sonable connivance at us. It arms all things for our destruction. Earth would vomit us forth. The

stars, in their courses, would fight against us. The treasures of the hail and of the snow would reserve themselves to wither us. The secret place of thun* der would volley its fiercest bolts to blast us. We could not turn but there would be an aspect that frowned, and a hand lifted up to avenge. one eye would pity. There could be none to help. And when we are told by Him, whose love we now rehearse, that God sent him not " into the world to condemn the world," we can form a dread conjee* ture, though but an obscure idea, of the catastrophe we have been spared. The intimation cannot be mistaken, that this might have proved His commiSf sion. Had He appeared among us for the piupose^ what must have been the infliction ? The heart dies away within us when we attempt to realize it. It is no little pain and difficulty that we experience in a conception of His character and person, so strange to our every present prepossession. Other linea^ ments must fill His countenance than those of downcast grief and heavenly compassion ; other tones must pass His lips than those of sympathy and forgiveness ; imagination must reverse the figure to which truth gave more touching beauty still. Behold Him with a tearless eye, and an unrelenting brow I Think of Him as the avenger and destroyer I And, whatever may be the violence that the contrast offers to our most endeared picturings and susceptibilities of mind, the thought must seize the

186 THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. possible case, and sternly pursue it. Let Him have so appeared I It was the moral necessity, the natural order, the simple coiu'se, of things 1 o other arrangement was inevitable, but only this: it must have been, though none other mustl His fury

would have upheld him I He would merely require to let loose the ciu'ses of his law, and the ministers of his wrath, and a world would be consumed, a species would be destroyed, — and the next planetary night, which rested on the sister-orbs, would reveal, in the direction of our globe, one radiant point the less. Like the " lost Pleiad," it might be noticed from afar ; but, while its extinction was indifferent to the grandeur of the Maker, and the immensity which He fills with splendour and peoples with being, — the passing away of an atom-dwelling and of an insectrace, — what a dread convulsion would it have been to those who suffered it ; and with what cries of horror would they have sunk through the wreck to "go down quick into hell 1'* But that which adds greater peculiarity of complexion to " the love of Christ*' is, that it was as little sought as deserved. The guilty parents of mankind are not described to us, sueing for re-admission into the Divine favour. They are not drawn with clasped hands and suppliant knees. They flee 1 The fugitives hide themselves in the thickets of the garden I It was not complacencyj which always regards excellence : it was not relenting j which always supposes contrition : it was grace acting in opposition to every disgusting quality, and every such quality pertina-

THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. 187 ciously retained. And its more special objects have often been " the chief of sinners." It has a profu* sion of munificence. It seeks rather the debtor of five hundred pence than of fifty. It goes after that which is most fatally lost until it finds it. It accepts no richer tribute, than the sinful woman's tears. It asks no more honourable eulogium, than that which escapes the convulsed tongue of the crucified

malefactor. It is jealous, lest there should seem too little for it to do : as jealous, lest he "to whom little is forgiven, the same should love little." " And such'* — this is the scroll of its worthies, the record of its achievements — "such were some of you I'* The Gospel, in which this love is concentrated, is " the glorious Gospel of Christ.'* o measure of guilt and depravity can exceed its power. o possible objection can exist to its publication among the most vile and obdurate. Among these it selects its "patterns," and "makes up its jewels." ow, these two reflections must be kept in mind» if we would conclude that the " love of Christ," in fixing itself upon us, " passeth knowledge," — ^the demerit of sirij and His infinite estrangement from it. one but an omniscient Being can estimate the evil, the turpitude, the " exceeding sinftdness" of transgression against divine justice, holiness, and love. It is relatively infinite in its character, and absolutely infinite in the duration of its consequences. But He " knew what was in man," and what " proceeded from the heart of man." He pierced the shades which enveloped the self of every character, and the enormity of every crime. And yet

188 THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. " the mind which was in Christ Jesus," was in eternal, essential, opposition to all sin. What must have been its repugnance to contact with this earth, to intercourse with depravity and blasphemy, to the spectacles of callous indifference and unbelief 1 And when some of this exquisite and awful purity was emitted, it struck to the soul of the spectator with an all-penetrating impression, until he fell down and prayed, " Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lordl" He knew the fall malignity of

siny He loathed it according to its fill deserts, and yet He loved sinners I Can His love be otherwise than inconceivable and infinite? Tell us why He would have mercy upon us, — tell us what is sin in his apprehension, — tell us what is the bite of the worm which never dies, — tell us what is the rage of the fire which is never quenched, — tell us what He endiu'ed when He exclaimed, " How long shall I suffer you?*' — and then you may sound the depths, and grasp the dimensions, of the Saviour's love. Until then, it rejects inquiry, and bafiles investigation: it is wrapt in the mystery "of God, and of the Father, and of Christ:" it merges in "the deep things" which the conscious Spirit of the Deity alone can " search :" and is restricted to the knowledge of Him before whom " hell is naked, and destruction hath no covering," who "holdeth back the face of his throne, and spreadeth his cloud upon it." We will endeavour to make good this representation of the text, by 3. A reference to the means hy which the love of Christ manifested itself

THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. 189 We do not invite ourselves, in this distribution of our thoughts, to review some simple, uncostly exercise — a fiat, an utterance of power, a look of pity, a boon of liberality. The mercies of God are new every morning — ^they are over all his works : but their communication is easy, unconstrained — ^the overflow of natural benevolence, the going forth of redundant virtue, emanations and transmissions most spontaneous, the constant beating of the heart, inscribed with the law of kindness, in the bosom of "God, who is Love."

But what a tremendous expense of condescension, debasement, and suffering, will now confound our powers of appreciation 1 The fact of His incarnation proves that " his love passeth knowledge." Had He been bom to the wealth of the universe, still, by any human nativity, He must have " become poor." Had the sceptres and crowns of earth been cast at his feet, in stooping to inhabit it. He must have " made himself of no reputation." What was the " glory which He had with the Father, before the world began ?*' What was the region "where he was before?*' He "humbled himself to behold the things which are done in heaven :" " He was made flesh, and dwelt among usl" Simile, metaphor, fancy, curiosity, are impertinent in this association ; nothing can adorn this unparalleled theme ; nothing can aid its expression ; let the fact be left in its own dread solemnity, and indefinable majesty 1 But this ineffable mystery of the incarnation stands

190 THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. in the order of a means to an end. Whatever is the result of such an arrangement, must be of surpassmg interest. It is adopted, not as an adequate organ of love, but as a necessary preliminary to ulterior measures. " The body is prepared," for ** an offering 1'* He was "made lower than the angels," "for the suffering of death." Our nature must be assumed, that our sin may be resented on it. Our blood must flow through Him, that it may be poured out for our expiation 1 He descended from heaven to earth, exchanged the visible glory of the God for the most humble form of humanity, to put himself into a sa-

crificing attitude and condition! And, having obtained this capacity, it is more the victim than the priest that He emulates — He bows down to receive, rather than to strike, the blow — unless we combine relations strictly united in Him, and remember that, while He lay the palpitating, bleeding Lamb on the altar. He was equally the High Priest who " offered himself without spot unto God." Behold Him in Gethsemanel His "soul is very sorrowful, even unto death." " He is sore amazed." " The Prince of this world cometh." " It is the hour and power of darkness." An invisible hand smites Him! An impalpable cloud of witnesses surrounds Him I A mysterious cup, seen only by himself, rises before Himl He is in "an agony!" His prayers ascend with "strong crying and tears!" The blood starts from each pore, and clots the earth on which He sinks 1 And yet there is an entire absence of all external agency, of all noxious intrusion — calm is

THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. IQl the scene, still is the night — ^it is the season of tranquillity and rest. The mountain-outline might fill the soul with wonder; the refreshing night-breeze might restore the fevered frame ; the kine, stretched on the pasture, — and the bird, cowering in its nest, might soothe the aching heart with images of pleasure; and the soft-moonlight glancing through the foliage, or sleeping on the brook, might compose the most distracted memory to peace. Why, then, does His bosom heave? Why do the channels of life overflow? othing to excite sorrow, nothing to inspire dread, is seen or heard. The struggle is within I What must have been the rending of His heart, — what the tempest which broke over, the gloom which settled upon. His spirit, — ^which could shatter

the organization of his body, and dash him to the ground 1 It has been a mental horror — sin, with its odiousness — justice, with its inexorableness, impressed itself upon Him. But what He felt, must remain a secret buried in his searchless breast. It was but a presage of what He had yet to endure. And now being forewarned, and having foretold, of His death, the dismay of this overshadowing visitation has ceased. He lifts himself up into native majesty. He awakes the slumbering disciples with a voice of well-prepared confidence, — "Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth Me is at hand:" and then interposes between them and the conspirators, as though He had no sorrows and dangers of his own, — "If ye seek Me, let these go their wayl" Behold Him on Calvary I A most marked con-

192 THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. trast is exhibited by Him here. We have seen Him weep, when nothing we could observe, justified a tear ; we have listened to His groan, when nothing we could trace, warranted a sigh ; we have watched with Him as he fell on the face and laid prostrate on the ground, when not a blow appeared to strike, nor calamity to befall. Him. It was then He was overwhelmed with" depression and despair. But now there is torture 1 there is shame I Mechanical cruelty, physical violence, corporeal suffering 1 And yet He exhibits a strange superiority, if not indifference, to the preparations and horrors of his crucifixion. Who heard Him complain, when the thorns were knotted around his head? Who heard Him complain, when rufiian-bands voided on his face their foaming rage, their contemptuous rheiun? Who , heard Him complain, when he stood arrayed in the insignia of mockery? Who heard Him complain, when he bent at the pillar under the lacerations of

the scourge? Who heard Him complain, when the outcries of his ungrateful countrymen demanded him for execution? Who heard Him complain, when he sank beneath the transverse of his cross? Who heard Him complain, when the jagged nail was driven into his hands and his feet? Who heard Him complain, when the malefactors cast their "scorn into his teeth?*' ow are the acute pains, the horrible inflictions, which might extort fast-flowing tears, deep-heaving lamentations! But it is the crisis of collected wisdom, of collected kindness, of collected power : and while the soldiery is gambling

THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OP CHRIST. 193 for his vesture, and the populace is deriding his suffering — He remembers that all things concerning him must be fulfilled — He bequeaths his soul-pierced mother — ^He implores forgiveness from heaven for his murderers — He throws open the gates of Paradise, and disposes of its rewards 1 But now, from hidden causes, the Death, which He should die, begins* Attendant phenomena declare it, "A voice from the temple" proclaims its awful curtain rent. The shriek of the multitude attests the reeling of the earth beneath their feet. One shadow covers the dial, as though the sun refused to mark by it the progress of the accursed time. And far down the valley of Jehoshaphat, the sheeted dead awake to life, and start to freedom. These are not unmeaning omens. For now the Sufferer, who had not "opened his mouth" for a wail or a reproach — whose calm dignity and forgiving mien, nothing could impair — pours out his bitter complaint. And, "be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid r* — his complaint is not against earth. He pities itl — not against hell. He defies itl — his quivering fiesh and bruised spirit break beneath another power,

— and his death-cry points that complaint to Heaven, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?*' Why is this ? Why must his love to man incur the infinite expense of such a death? Why could it not have found another passage than of grief and blood? " What meaneth the heat of this great anger?** Sin was the occasion of all. "He bore our iniquities.** "He was made sin for us.** "He was o

I

194 THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. the end of the law." "He was made a curse for us.'* "He was cut oflF not for himself.*' ow, to calculate this love, or rather to show that it exceeds all calculation, the following inquiries must be originated : — May His death be considered a strictly per*' Monal act? By His person, we intend a perfectly incomprehensible union of divine and human natures, " God was manifest in the flesh." Whatever is impossible or untrue of either, in its separate condition, we may affirm to be equally so in its relative one. Deity must be impassive, humanity must be finite and dependent : the first cannot descend to the limitations of the second, — the second cannot be raised into the infinities of the first. In every available sense, and

according to every practical influence, we believe "the decease accomplished** by Christ Jesus to possess all the concurrence which a personal act requires, and all the value which the combined extreme of His properties can impart. These perfections and imperfections, this incapability and susceptibility of suffering, are brought together, and ** of twain are made both one,** to produce a great, a transcendently meritorious consequence. While the natures are so dissimilar, a fact which the Incarnation prepares us to expect, they are indissolubly blended in design, and in all moral virtue. And thus a happy confusion may be detected in the statements of Scripture, confusion which bespeaks the most solemn confidence and glovdng ap-

THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. 19^ preciation of the complex mysteiy to which they relate. " Feed the church of God which He hath purchased with his own blood" — ^that is, of his humanity. ^^ And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Sem of Man which is in heaven," — ^that is, in respect of his Divinity. And, on equal evidence, we may notice the manifest intention of Scripture to connect his glory, his highest acts and attributes, with his passion and death: "All things were created by Him and for Him • • . and having made peace through the blood of his cross.'' " Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God • . . but humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross^ " Who, being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power. He, by himself, purged our sins'' Even Divine agency is supposed in preparing, sustaining, and consummating, the awful action of

his oblation; and it is, as it only could be, darkly intimated to us that it was "through the Eternal Spirit He oflfered up himself:** essential supremacy being necessary to give it self-devoting independence and infinite validity. And, therefore, we discover that other representations of Scripture crown the whole as truly personal : " He, his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree.** Think, then, dear Christians, of your Redeemer's agony and crucifixion; at each convulsion, with each wound, remember his proper sphere and majesty; delight in oS

196 THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. the incongruity and collision of the associations ; be japt shamed into any course of extenuation. This is the secret of the " mystery of godjiness," this is but " the height and depth of the love of Christ which passQth knowledge I'' — How were his sufferings affected by this contrast of natures f Few are our premises here, and most subdued must be our statements. The manhood was perfect in its rectitude and purity. It was assumed for the purpose of '' finishing transgression and making an end of sin.** In constitution and motive it was, therefore, a "holy thing." Inconceivably hateful must sin have appeared to all its views and sensibilities. But, (and it is with a trembling reverence that the conception is cherished of Thee who wast " undefiled,'* and canst " have compassion on the ignorant 1**) these views and sensibilities were now placed in the highest possible point of advantage and facility for refinement and expansion. We may understand

how the closest approach to the Eternal presence illumines and purifies the seraph, bending within its most favoured circle and most unveiled brightness ; but the union of natures, such as the inspired volume announces, can have no analogy, and, therefore, no description. The necessity of the dread arrangement, however, is, that whatever could suffer, (and inconsiderable were the pangs of the body when compared with the anguish of the mind) must have been more deeply pierced, more keenly excruciated, by the contact and affinity of the Purity in whose

THE TRA SCE DE T tOVE OF f^llRIST. 197 ** sight the heavens are not clean.'* If you can intitgine sin concentrated to the eye that most loathes it; and avenged upon the heart that most abhors it*; if you can add, to this imagination, such lights filliiig the understanding, such depressions saddening the spirit, as immediate revelations from the proximate Godhead must produce, when directed to ex{)ose and resent " the sin of the world,*' — then, instead of finding in the circumstances knd adjuncts of his death any assuagement and relief, you will confess that they were calculated and employed to give it a bitterness, a dejection, a horror all its own I O what love is this, which every reflection enlarges by confirming the pains it endured, the sufferings which, with every possible aggravation and increase, it welcomed ! How it " passeth knowledge 1*' Thinkest thou, that thou canst conceive it? Thinkest thou, that thou canst bring it down to the level of thy puny capacity? First " measure the waters in the hollow of thy hand, and mete out heaven with a span, and comprehend the dust of the earth in a measure, and weigh the mountain^ in scales and the hills in a balance." These are hut Jinite things and

proportions^ the "love of Christ** is infinite! This pre-eminence of the Saviour*s love to man may be authorized by considering 4. The blessings which it secures. The salvation which the Gospel announces, concerns beings so endangered and issufes so awful, thit all description is unattempted by the inspired book itself. It tells us that " God so loved the World,** it

198 THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST* Speaks of the ** so great salvation/* Here we must take up the emphasis ; but what is our hope, or must be our chance, of success, when that highest authority will, and that highest wisdom can, reveal to us nothing more ? This we know, that all which affects or inheres in our sinful nature, the Gospel of salvation perceives and counteracts, putting us into such a condition of impunity that we may say, " Who is he that condemneth?^ and pouring such a new nature into us, that we may equally exclaim, " How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein ?** Expressions of wonder are strewn through it, obviously designed to awaken corresponding emotions: **the mystery of the Gospel,** "the mystery of faith," "his marvellous light,** "his unspeakable gift,** " the unsearchable riches of Christ.** Think upon the human soul! How precious is its redemption 1 How irretrievable is its loss I A world would not ransom the one, a world not compensate the other I That soul is to be "saved from death.** And if its capabilities be so great that we cannot limit them, if endless joy or endless woe must be its inheritance, how shall we comprehend that love

which wrested it from "the power of darkness," delivered it from " the pit of destruction," made it a care and a prize, set itself upon it, sought it with every lure, caressed it with every endearment, went " after it until it found it," constituted it " all glorious within,** reared for it " a building eternal in the heavens,** still is "preparing mansions for it,** raises its hand forever to shield iU lights up its smile forever

THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. 199 to bless it, and binds itself with an oath forever to assure it? One present blessing of this love "passeth all understanding :*** what must be that train of bestowments of which Heaven is but the name, and Eternity but the prolongation? ow, in connexion with this " great and everlasting salvation,'' the Son of God bears peculiar titles. He is " the Captain of salvation,** he is " the Prince and Saviour,** — terms almost incongruous, until we recall the words of the Patriarch, "I sat as chief, and dwelt as a king in the army, as one that comforteth the mourners.** He is a prophet: his only lesson being, " Learn of me and I will give you rest," and his only rebuke, " Ye will not come unto me that ye may have life.** He is a priest : his altar and his victim being his very self, and his intercession the continued voice of "his sprinkled blood.** He is a king^ ruling by the law of liberty, while his royalties, his " rod and staff, comfort us." And what are these but the varied indications and forms of " the love of Christ which passeth knowledge?** And, when all metaphors are crowded into view and pressed into illustration, when we are summoned to behold in Jesus the fruitfulness of the vine, the effulgence of the sun, the serenity of the star, the costliness of the gem, the firmness of the rock, the

security of the foundation, the nourishment of the food, the peacefulness of the refuge, the rallying of the ensign: when we are invited to recognize in Him the knowledge of the Teacher, the experience • Philip, iy. 9.

200 TI£B TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. . of the Guide, the skill of the Physician, the fidelity of the Witness, the joy of the Bridegroom, the scrutiny of the Refiner, the care of the Shepherd, the obligation of the Surety^ the welcome of the Forerunner, — what is it but that thought tires, but that fancy sinks, but that language fails, — what is it but a confession borne by all things of their poverty to signify, their inferiority to express, this love? that it cannot be told? that it passeth knowledge? There are two discrepant courses of thought which we must pursue, before we make any approach towards the infinite meaning of our theme. Could we unbar the gates of hell, could we pierce its outer darkness, could we explore its burning lake, could we hear its shrieks which fall back in the mockery of echo on those who utter them, could we see the wreaths of the sulphureous smoke which ascends up from the tormenting flame, could we learn one fang of their remorse, and one chill of their despair, • . . could we loose the portal of heaven, could we sustain its empyrean blaze, could we trace its living river, could we listen to the anthems which reverberate in the unison of attuned hearts, could we gaze upon the cloud of incense, of which each bosom is a censer, and each feeling is an ingredient, could we learn one sentiment of their contemplation, and one pulse of their ecstacy, — then might we begin to

understand, and venture to speak of, that love which has reached to the world above, and stooped to the world below, — whose height is more exalted than the highest heaven, — whose depth is more searching than

THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. 201 the lowest hell, — ^whose breadth expatiates over* an infinite field, — ^whose length runs into an eternal duration. Yes, this love is like Him who is "the Wonderful,*^ — and as "no one knoweth who the Son is but the Father," so it is equally incomprehensible with his person, and consists only with infinite intelligence. " Such knowledge is too wonderful for us; it is high j we cannot attain unto it/* Time would fail to open new springs of admiration. The love of which we speak is the great impulse and direction of all those powers and operations which fill the universe. " It sweetly ordereth all things." For this the series q£ dispensations was projected, for this the destiny of empires was controlled, for this the tide of ages was accelerated, for this the system of worlds was reared; Forever was the foundation of this mercy laid, and it shall be built up forever. What a receding eternity conceived, an advancing eternity shall revolve. Stretching itself from everlasting to everlasting, it secures to us " everlasting consolation" and " eternal redemption I" O, nnezampled love ! Love no where to be found — less thak Divike.* But is the result of all this immensity and majesty of benevolence a confusion, an overpowering prostration of the soul — leaving it nothing intelligent^ definite, and distinct ?^ It illuminates as well a3

warms ; arouses the mind to its fullest activity, as well as draws out the heart in its fullest strength. • MUton.

902 THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. And thus the text speaks of " knowing the love of Christ which passeth knowledge." It remains, therefore, that we inquire into II. The PERCEPTIO WHICH THE CHRISTIA MAY ACQUIRE OF THIS LOVE, OTWITHSTA DI G ITS Dlvi E Infinitude. The sullen indiflFerence, the strange perverseness, of the human mind towards the Saviour's character and mission is strongly marked in Scripture : " The darkness comprehendeth it not.'' All just estimation of his person, all appropriate conception of his work, are traced by it to a preternatural source : " That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.'' " o man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost." And the present writer is overwhelmed by the recollection that this discovery had been imparted to him : *^ It pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, to reveal his Son in me /" The Scripture equally exhibits the pre-eminent value of such super-human information: "I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, even the Crucified One." "Yea, doubtless, and I count aU things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only

true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." And it is always assumed that this knowledge is distinctive of the genuine believer ; that it is an appeal to which he must respond, and a conviction

THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. SOS which he must obey: "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ." "Ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins." "We know him that is true, even Jesus Christ." We will, therefore, inquire into the experimental sense, and the practical use, of this internal percept tion, as the Christian cherishes and employs it. 1. It is the great interpreting principle which he applies to all the tremendous facts of Redemption. Most mysterious is its plan, most mysterious is its apparatus. Detach or combine the arrangements and courses of action supposed, seize the vast out* line or the supplementary part, pursue the means or the ends, and we become mute with astonishment^ transfixed with awe. The extremes of bliss and sorrow, of wealth and destitution, of grandeur and meanness, unite in the person of the "Word who was made flesh and dwelt among us." The death of "the man Christ Jesus," subsisting in perfect union with the ature "eternal, immortal, invisible," — still more confounds us. What a prodigality of expense, what a contradiction of laws, what a derangement of tendencies, was this I What a contrast to all that eye had seen, or ear heard, or that entered into the heart of man I How the mind, in endea^ vouring to dwell upon it, is hurried through its little range of sympathies and hopes, conflicting with its

aversions and terrors, until it is bewildered, distracted, lost I They are, and can only be, the absolute suggestions of revelation. It is no shadow of natural religion which is now bodied. It is no light

204 THE TRA SCE DE T I*OY£ OF CHRIST. of human reason which is now deciphered. The authority, the veracity, the reasonableness of the stupendous scheme rest upon grounds exclusively and peremptorily its own. This "righteousness of God is revealed," — "God* hath revealed these things to us by his Spirit," and they can only be "spiritually discerned." And, therefore, unbelievers esteem "these things foolishness." The rabble-shout proclaims the prejudices of our school-men and wits: "If thou be the Christ, come down from the cross." The improbability that such a Person should be constituted, th^t such a Person should die, is set up against the most solemn and repeated declarations of tliat volume, which alone could inform, or ought to convince, us. The Christian feels that all is marvellous, perplexing, incredible, but for one solution. Whence all this, which staggers thought, which convulses feeling? "To know the love of Christ,** is to possess the reply. Therefore He assumed such abasement ; therefore He stooped so low ; therefore He submitted to death so bitter and so strange. It was His love which endured the cross, and despised the shame. It is His. love that sheds its own soft piercing light over the dread profound. We look into the very heart in which all originates. We discover the actual bias which brought Him from heaven to earth. We feel the throb itself which went beating on beyond the power of the spear to stop it; which, unlike his human nature, could never die, and still beats on with the power of an endless life. We recognize, however solemn the

THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. 305 gUmpse, the movement of Infinite Compassion in aU the mediums of human expression, — to the yearnings to the groan, to the tear. And then it is that Calvary becomes "a mount that might be touched,** and is invested with no less of tender attraction than of tremulous uwe. He who " loveth righteousness," and He who "resteth in love," is equally there. The "goodness and the severity of God," have a common work, and stand in an equal fellowship. If holiness demand a sacrifice, love provides a victim : if justice unsheath the sword, love receives the blow. The "love which passeth knowledge," is ascendant among all those "fearful sights and strange signs.** The tokens above, and beneath, are "for good.* Love speaks above every voice, and love is trans-' parent through every shade. It is not so much the frown of the Divine countenance which darkens the sun, as the light of that countenance which outshines it. Does the veil rend? "The way into the holiest of all is made manifest." Do the dead arise? "Awake and sing, ye who dwell in the dust." And if at last. His death should seem to require an unmingled act of rigour and retribution, — "mercy rejoiceth," for while vengeance raises its weapon, the bosom of "surpassing love" opens and presents itself — invites, hastens, closes with, falls upon, its point 1 — What mystery remains if you explain it by his love? Ah, little have we succeeded in " knowing the love which passeth knowledge I" It is but the substitution of one difficulty for another I Love can explain his conduct: what can explain his lovef But it is a

206 THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST.

happy pause to which we are reduced : " the great love wherewith He loved us'* is our only embarrassment. " The everlasting arms are round about us," and our intricacy is in their embrace. This only do we, will we, know — that Christ " hath loved us, and given himself for us.** We dare ask no further, we can learn no morel We cling to the hem of his garment, we turn to the face of infinite beauty, we dwell upon the love which is spontaneous as it is inexhaustible — until its thought is too intense, and its influence becomes oppressive — and we exclaim, *• Turn away thine eyes from us, for they have overcome us 1** — But the Christian " knows the love of Christ which passeth knowledge,** as it is 3. The sacred element and incentive of all piety. The general placability and amiableness of Jesus does not touch the soul with any quickening or transforming power. But when this love is appropriated, when, upon unfailing testimony, I infer that I am a peculiar object of it, when I may conclude that my ** name is in the Lamb*s book of life,*' that his dying heart cherished the thought of my case, and wore the image of my destiny, — then I am " a new creature," — " I love Him who first loved mel** Until then his universal love seemed to have no individual reference. Amidst all its opulence, I was not rich : amidst all its blessedness, I was not happy. In vain I was told that " He tasted death for every man.** I then thought of " sons of perdition** — men for whom it would be "better that they never had been born." But when this love of Christ is op-

THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHBI8T. S07 pliedy including my history, entering into my situa-

tion, then my " captivity is turned," then " the new song is in my mouth," — " He sent from above j He took me; He drew me out of many waters; He brought me forth also into a large place ; He delivered me because he delighted in me." And though now the avowal of this personal experience will subject us to the censure and scoffing of the world, the Hosanna of the grateful heart and the confessing tongue must please Him to whom it is raised: "The Master** knows that "we cannot hold our peace,** nor will he be induced "to rebuke his disciples.^ And soon shall He gather his flock, and declare his spouse, the church : and already has promised to it the most signal proof of his love in the homage of its enemies : " Behold I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee." The Christian is united to Christ vitally as well as mystically. " Know ye not your own selves how that Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" " To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you the hope of glory." As an effect of this union, His love becomes — The theme of contemplation. The soul receives it into its most honoured recesses, and lays it up among its most treasured delights. " The meditation is sweet." " While we muse the fire bums.** Many a vision does it swell 1 — many a transport does it awaken I — many a song does it attune I " Whom,

208 THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. not having seen, we love; in whotti, though now we see him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory." And He " who is our

life," our present "hope," our eternal "all," shall •"come again" — and then how shall He "be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them who believe I" His love is also, in the believer's esteem, — The ground of confidence. " Ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ." •* I know my sheep, and am known of mine." The Christian lives in the spirit of self-renouncement. He will only "glory in the Lord." His former phantasies of merit and of right are all trodden under foot. He has " no confidence in the flesh." His rejoicing is, that " it is Christ who died, yea rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." Well may he be " strong in Christ Jesus," "trust and not be afraid," since " from His fulness he receives, since "he is ever coming to Him as a living stone. He is " not ashamed, for he knows in whom he has believed 1" — And this "love which passeth knowledge" is still further a subject of believing perception, as it is — The motive of obedience. "The love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them and rose again." " Hereby do we know that we know Him if we keep his commandments. He

99 99

THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. S09

that saith I know Him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.*^ And this apprehension of the Saviour is essential to all religion. "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.'* "For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." " Until we all come in the unity of the faith and of the know^ ledge of the Son of God, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.** The believer " knows the love of Christ,** as it is 3. Hie impulse and model of all benevolence and zeal. " Herein is our love made perfect, because as he is, so are we in this world." We " mind his things.** We make his cause our own. We carry on his work. Our business and our delight is to "make manifest the savour of his knowledge in every place.** This we must experience ourselves, in order to communicate to others. Then may we say, " Know the Lord.** And who have been the men to bless the world? To break the yoke of oppression? To pour around them the day of science and of peace? They who could answer, "Thou knowest that I love Theel** They who could avow, " For us to live is Christ.** His example was their study, his love was their zeal. They were not to be likened to the lens which can kindle a distant flame by the sunbeam transmitted through it while its own surface continues dark and cold, — ^but rather to the p

210 THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST.

flower and tree, which first themselves imbibing the heavenly ray, return it in bloom, and odour, and fruit I Such is the love of Christ, that " it passeth knowledge." Such is the privilege of those who believe in him, that still they " know it.*' The propositions are equally true, and equally capable of confirmation. And let not man attempt to reduce them, by either debasing the majestic greatness of the one, or equivocating with the experimental secret of the other. Certain conclusions arise from a review of our investigation into the subject of the text, — alas, how inferior to it, how unworthy of it! 1. It is only natural to expect a transcendent character in Christianity. The feeling is justified and encouraged by every thing in it. " That," said the Saviour, " ye may marvel." Its long continued history, its prologues, its harbingers, its miracles, — ^its subordination of all events, its impression upon all ages, — the songs of heaven saluting it, the bowlings of heU deprecating it, — ^prepare us for what is vast and awful. But were a creature its principal personage, and a creature^s love its capital theme, — did it demand the admiration of the universe to a human child's birth, and a mortal man's death, — what words could speak the sudden descent of towering thought, the abortive consummation of mighty arrangement, the bitter disappointment and mockery of eager hope? Such a result, after such a preliminary 1 Such an explanation, after such a summons I But there are those

THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. 211

who cannot make it sufficiently insignificant and mean. Their ambition is to lower, until they can nullify, it. For their reason^ nothing can be too cold ; for their taste j notliing too diminutive ; for their ^^t ingj nothing too indifferent. They find not a mystery, however the intelligencies of the celestial hierarchy may : and deplore the vain excitement of them to whom the Saviour " is precious." We must not deny that their end has been signally attained. Simplicity they have purchased to themselves. They have selected it of the most naked attenuation. They have torn the drapery from the skeleton, and turned the skeleton into a phantom. They have succeeded in extracting from Christianity a creed without doctrine, a code without sanction, a morality without principle, a hope without solace. It is not quite certain that their work is done. Ever and anon they pay a compliment to their own forbearance. There are broken intimations that something more will be accomplished at a favourable conjuncture. What will be their closing scene we dare not guess. In the meantime — only so far as they have yet gone, and with all their considerate reserve and selfrestraint — " the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it, and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it." 2. o better test exists of what is genuine Christianity than the level of the views which it exhibits concerning the person and work of Christ, and the tone of the affections which it encourages towards him. p2

212 THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. It is unnecessary to enter into any proof that

Scripture labours to exalt, and to sublimate, in this connection, all our sentiments of confidence, regard, and adoration. The design goes through its entire tissue. If it be its unguarded style, it sanctions a practical error which vitiates the whole. If it be its metaphorical caste, its real meaning is suffocated in the gorgeous pall. JVe believe this volume, in its inspired sense and style. And we ask how can we debase the Lord Jesus by its patronage and aid? Does it intend that he was a creature by calling him the Creator? Does it express his limitation of power and knowledge in predicating of him omnipotence and omniscience ? Does it denote his accountability by placing the universe before his tribunal throne ? Does it restrict him as a being of time, in the assurance that he is the First and the Last? If we err, we err with the only directory of truth, — and " the physician must heal itself." — Or can the Gospel, which we have received **not of man but by revelation of Jesus Christ,** lend its countenance to his degradation? It leads our thoughts and feelings up one ever-ascending scale, until they lose themselves in the divine and infinite. — Dare we implore the influence of the Holy Spirit to guide and succour us in our attempt ? He " glorifies Christ,** and the coarsest blasphemy, the most ribald impiety, would shrink from the utterance of such a prayer. — Could Christian-fellowship be so employed ? Let the Christian meet his brethren in their sweetest communion, their fullest charity : let them approach the table of

THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. 213 their Lord : and will that be a welcome scene for contracting each enlarged idea, and quenching each kindled emotion, — for divesting the symbols of all association that could inspire gratitude, and reducing their Founder to such necessary conditions of

manhood that he was incapable of condescension, disinterestedness, and of " love that passeth knowledge ?** Oh, it is not thus that the Scripture can be tortured, that the Gospel can be contradicted, that the Spirit can be insulted, that the Fellowship of the Church can be prostituted I And the infa^ tuated malignant who sought their eo-operationi would quickly be compelled to answer each : " I took thee to curse him, and behold thou hast blessed him altogether.*' But while to them who believe "Jesus is honour,'* the subject of the greatest honour, reflecting this honour on all beings and interests related to him, and entrusting this honour to be avowed and vindicated by all who bear his name, — while, they never fear that their homage and their gratitude can lead them to any point, or involve them in any danger, of excess, — there are those who give to Christ another rank, and to his religion another construction. Have they well considered the temerity of thus openly counteracting the temper and language of the Inspired Book? Have they no lingering decency with which to veil the outrage ? How shall I give it shape and enunciation ? * At the * This paragraph was extracted from the MS. of the sermon into the pages of a recent Controversial Tract. The author hopes he may be pardoned for preseiying it in its original place. His reason is, because it has

J

214 THB TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. name of Jesus bow not the knee I Call not upon his name I Lift not to him the aspiration of praise and prayer I Guard against the throb of gratitude which might cause you to forget your ultimate obligation I

Keep yourself free from the worship of this creature I Watch, lest your love of this your fellowman betray you into extravagancies of personal feeling I Remember that when the inelegant mention is made of his bloodi you are merely to think of a virtuous end I Cast out of your mind the remotest thought of any efficacy attaching itself to his death I Exhibit the holy man and faithful martyr as superior to a Socrates, between whom and the Christian prophet a close parallelism of character and suffering may, after all, be very edifyingly pursued I When the first stands in Gabbatha, allow a pre-eminence to him over the other as he stands on Areopagus, though the inequality be but small j not forgetting ,to mark a trifling difference between the poison-cup and the cross I Be rational to the last ! When you die be not seduced into the error of the vision-dazzled Stephen, but let your parting prayer be more philosophically composed I Let your spirit, if you have one^ refuse the heavenly robe which was " made white" in that to which you owe no thankful debt, and which you should never bend to celebrate in song 1 Accept not the harp which must be struck to the Gulilean's praise I Remonstrate with the ten thoubeen preached in seyeral instances, and they who heard it might not understand why it was omitted. Some may call it a severe parody on the writers of the Socinian school, he knows that it is really a favourable representation.

THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. 215 sand times ten thousands, whose postures and whose strains are so capable of misinterpretation into unholy rites I Denounce the idolatries of heaven I

If we ^^know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge," we "have not so learned'' Christ I 3. There is much qfimplicit^ as well as declara^ tive^ evidence^ in support of the Saviour's Supreme Divinity. In perusing any treatise, of human composition^ there are two methods of ascertaining its purport. The first is the more direct, to take the most professed exponent, found in definitions and substantive arguments directed to a certain point. But there is a second. If the author be consistent with himself, even where there is no attempted accuracy, no studied explanation, we may trace an unafiected harmony, an all-pervading spirit. This is the tenor of the volume, and no examination can be more just and satisfactory. And we apply this inferential reasoning to the "testimony of Jesus.*' othing can exceed its unequivocal averments. There is " line upon line." "He was God.*' " He is the great God.'' " He is the true God." " He is the mighty God." "He is the only wise God." " He is God over all." We know not how terms can be more potential and descriptive. But much is assumed. What is the genius of Scripture? What is that principle of interpretation which falls in with its most easy and unconstrained meaning ? What is that explication which, though it is checked by no verbal nicety, coalesces with the whole ? It is this

216 THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRISTwhich renders the Word of Truth so analogous in its parts, so uniform in its bearings. We hesitate not to affirm that the one truth — " in Christ Jesus dwelleth all the fulness of the GocUiead bodily,** — is the master-key, as it is the understood principle, of

all Divine Revelation. And thus, what is most distinctly announced, is most virtually implied, through all its compass and all its detail. And when We believe that the " Son of God is come in the flesh,*' we have the tittle, as well as the volume, of the Evidence ; the general instruction, as well as the pointed lesson, of- the Teacher; the incessant whisper, as well as the sudden burst, of the Oracle; the ordinary radiance of the Urim and the Thummim, as well as their more refulgent syllables 1 4. How necessary is it that we should live habitually under the influence of this transcendent love. The early Christians felt no sacrifices dear, no piiivations painful, no dangers formidable, when "the love, which passeth knowledge,** demanded a return. — They were " Christ's 1** With hearts soft as the wax to melt, and firm as the adamant to resist, they leapt into the burning pile as into a chariot of fire ; the shout which decreed them to the lions, was as the gale on which their spirit stretched its wing towards heaven ; and when crucifixion was the cruel award, their joy knew no bounds, because it elevated them to the " fellowship of the Saviour's sufferings, and a conformity to his death.*' Each point of resemblance was seized; it was a disappointment, if the cord held the distended limb and not the nail ;

THE TRA SCE DE T LOVE OF CHRIST. 217 and there the disciple, who would be as his Master, and the servant as his Lord, hung, bleeding, writhing, expiring — the crown of thorns more envied, by the sinking head, than any diadem, and the cross more valued, by the rending heart, than any throne I Ah I much of deficiency, of languor, of irresolu-

tion, have we to deplore 1 These examples shame us! What a new view have we to takel and what a higher state of feeling should we cherish 1 And yet it is a blessed thought, that this " love, which passeth knowledge, may be known;" it is a pleasing hope that we "have known Him who is from the beginning ;'* it is these reflections which give life its charm, death its sweetness, and immortality its welcome 1 " It doth not yet appear what we shall be;** yet nothing can now repress our desire, and preclude our right, to sing the strain which the celestial choirs celebrate, and by which we "shall be still praising** Him, — "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."

1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books

2. ALL WRITI GS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=970

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